Every four years, the BJU family finds itself engaged in a day of intense competition between two contending teams. With residence hall against residence hall and friend against friend, the stakes are high and the reward, the title of Gold Rush Daze victor, is coveted. This year’s battle lines will form on Tuesday, March 12.
But when did this feud between Green Thunder and Red Lightning begin? Assistant dean of mentoring and counseling Mr. Stephen Wetterlund said the history of this day of rivalry began in the 1976-1977 school year.
According to Wetterlund, WBJU proposed to the administration that the day set aside for White Glove also involve athletic competitions on the field. But because students needed to focus on cleaning their rooms, the administration turned down this idea.
Mr. Craig Olsen, former director of student activities and organizations and the original director of Gold Rush Daze, suggested a free-for-all day, a day for fun and competitions. The administration approved this idea, and Gold Rush Daze began.
“[That is how] Gold Rush Daze has developed to what it is today,” Wetterlund said. “A lot of it has remained true to its core; it really has not changed a whole lot over the years.”
Margaret Mack resident supervisor and leader of Red Lighting, Miss Laura Cross, said games in the past have included obstacle courses, relay races, battles of tug of war and the classic game “The Elopement,” which involves a couple riding in a golf cart—the man driving through a course blindfolded and the woman giving directions. But every Gold Rush Daze brings new, top-secret dimensions to the games.
According to Wetterlund, the Lighting and Thunder team names have stayed consistent ever since the student body council chose them for the first Gold Rush Daze. However, because of the blue Bruins, Blue Thunder has been changed to Green Thunder.
Before the games begin, students are treated to breakfast in bed by faculty, staff and administrators dressed in costumes. This aspect of Gold Rush Daze appeared in its third year. According to Wetterlund, since Gold Rush Daze began, Dr. Bob Jones Jr., Dr. Bob Jones III and Dr. Stephen Jones have participated in delivering food and greeting students.
In preparation for competition, students can show team spirit by decorating their residence halls for points and by wearing their team colors on their clothes and faces on the day of competition. Further energy will ignite when the team leaders rouse their troops with pep rallies and an electrifying parade.
Cross said in past parades teams have invited BJU students, vendors and even fire stations to showcase their vehicles in the parade.
Faculty body is another special treat that accompanies the day’s events. “This is your faculty, staff and administrators as you’ve never seen them before,” Wetterlund said. “It is an unforgettable event.”
In past years, retired faculty member Mr. Bill Moose directed faculty body, which included things like Dr. Stephen Jones reigning as king of “Bob Jones Land,” Dr. Bob Wood removing his toupee and Dr. Dan Olinger floating across the balcony in a hot air balloon.
Retired art education faculty member Mr. John Roberts was a sophomore during the first Gold Rush Daze and has seen many memorable faculty bodies since then. He said one theme centered on Beauty and the Beast and another on Larry King Live.
According to Roberts, faculty members have made some grand entrances during faculty body. Retired dean of women Miss Lynette Baker appeared as Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune in gold sequins and a blond wig. Dr. Ed Panosian rode his bike through the aisles of the FMA to imitate the movie ET. During another year, Dr. Bob Jones III came onstage with his family dressed in 1920s swimwear.
While on faculty, Roberts participated in a group of bluegrass singers for one faculty body. The group walked throughout the FMA during the preshow and serenaded the students. In the program itself, Roberts said the bluegrass group sang the comedy song “Puttin’ on the Dog.”
After an exhausting day of competition and uncontrollable laughter at faculty body, the BJU family comes together for a singspiration, challenge and fireworks.
Though the day centers on a feud between Thunder and Lightning, Wetterlund said the day’s purpose is to deepen the unity within the BJU family. Now, more than 35 years since Gold Rush Daze began, students still look forward to this once-in-a-college-career opportunity.